Formaldehyde (HCHO) in the ambient air not only causes cancer but is also an ideal indicator of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are major precursors of ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) near the surface. It is meaningful to differentiate between the direct emission and the secondary formation of HCHO for HCHO pollution control and sensitivity studies of O3 production. However, understanding of the sources of HCHO is still poor in China, due to the scarcity of field measurements (both spatially and temporally). In this study, tropospheric HCHO vertical column densities (VCDs) in the Yangtze River Delta (YRD), East China, where HCHO pollution is serious, were retrieved from the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite from 2014 to 2017; these retrievals showed good agreement with the tropospheric HCHO columns measured using ground-based high-resolution Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTS) with a correlation coefficient (R) of 0.78. Based on these results, the cancer risk was estimated both nationwide and in the YRD region. It was calculated that at least 7840 people in the YRD region would develop cancer in their lives due to outdoor HCHO exposure, which comprised 23.4% of total national cancer risk. Furthermore, the contributions of primary and secondary sources were apportioned, in addition to primary and secondary tracers from surface observations. Overall, the HCHO from secondary formation contributed most to ambient HCHO and can be regarded as the indicator of VOC reactivity in Hangzhou and in urban areas of Nanjing and Shanghai from 2015 to 2017, due to the strong correlation between total HCHO and secondary HCHO. At industrial sites in Nanjing, primary emissions more strongly influenced ambient HCHO concentrations in 2015 and showed an obvious decreasing trend. Seasonally, HCHO from secondary formation reached a maximum in summer and a minimum in winter. In the spring, summer, and autumn, secondary formation had a significant effect on the variation of ambient HCHO in urban regions of Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, whereas in the winter the contribution from secondary formation became less significant. A more thorough understanding of the variation of the primary and secondary contributions of ambient HCHO is needed to develop a better knowledge regarding the role of HCHO in atmospheric chemistry and to formulate effective control measures to decrease HCHO pollution and the associated cancer risk.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science